Kicking around Kickstarter: Is my annoyance justified?

I’ve been pretty down on Kickstarter lately, at least as a game-funding service. Most of my ire revolves around games that change from what is stated when you pledge to what eventually gets made, and much of that change is driven my stretch goals. At least that is what my gut has been telling me.

This morning I decided to stop listening to my gut and actually gather some data. I made a list of all the Kickstarter games I’ve backed and where they stand.

Six of the projects I backed either failed to make funding or were canceled:

Class of Heroes II – Failed $96K/$500K 4/27/2012
Tortured Hearts: or, How I Saved the Universe. Again = Failed $12K/$300K 4/29/2012
Gravitaz – Failed $7K/$25K 5/10/2012
GUTS – Failed $10K/$60K 9/29/2012
Project: Gorgon – Failed $14K/$55K 11/3/2012
Wildman – Canceled $504K/$1,100K 2/11/2013

There’s not a lot to say about the failed projects from an end user point of view. I know Eric Heimburg is still moving forward on Project Gorgon (he’s an Asheron’s Call veteran) and Chris Taylor sounds like he’s going to get the chance to do Wildman via (I think?).

Next up, projects that have been published:

FTL – Published $200K/$10K
Battle of the Bulge – Published $37K/$20K
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – Published $85K/$50K
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters – Published $204K/$200K

Of these four, I get the feeling that three of them launched Kickstarter campaigns to ‘finish up’ a project and that Bulge was the only one that kind of lived and died on Kickstarter. My friends really like Bulge but the system was a little too esoteric for my tastes. Still, the project was delivered as promised so I’m calling that a win.

FTL is interesting to me because it was one of the first Kickstarter projects I backed and it came before the Kickstarter fad took off. The team brought in a lot more cash than they asked for, but I guess ‘stretch goals’ hadn’t been invented yet, so instead of using the extra cash to add a multiplayer mode or 3D effects or a /pizza command, they published the game they promised, and its really good. Another definite win.

And then there’s the Big List of Projects We’re Waiting on.

Wasteland 2 – $2,933K/$900K 4/17/2012
The Banner Saga – $700K/$100K 4/20/2012
Valdis Story: Abyssal City – $49K/$8K 4/27/2012
Aura Tactics – $11K/$5K 4/6/2012
The Dead Linger – $154K/$60K 4/29/2012
Shadowrun Returns – $1,836K/$400 4/29/2012
Starlight Inception – $158K/$150K 5/8/2012
Nekro – $158K/$100K 5/4/2012
Grim Dawn – $537K/$280K 5/18/2012
Republique – $555K/$500K 5/11/2012
Xenonauts – $154K/$50K 6/10/2012
Legends of Eisenwald – $83K/$50K 5/22/2012
Clang – $526K/$500 7/9/2012
Auro – $14K/$7K 6/29/2012
Shadowrun Online – $558K/$500K 8/14/2012
Castle Story – $700K/$80K 8/26/2012
Crea – $27K/$15K 8/7/2012
Steam Bandits: Outpost – $55K/$30K 8/19/2012
Mercenary Kings – $116K/$75K 9/13/2012
Expeditions: Conquistador – $77K/$70K 9/12/2012
Greed Monger – $90K/$30K 11/30/2012
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption – $409/$400 11/20/2012
Meriwether: An American Epic – $44K/$35K 1/6/2013

I’m not going to talk about each of these individually but I wanted to call out a couple of them. Also it’s clear that I went Kickstarter crazy last spring and I have a lot of money tied up in these games. Too much so. That’s no one’s fault but mine, of course, but I think it’s a good thing I got a little jaded or I’d be in the poor house by now!

The Banner Saga really is the root of much of my Kickstarter discontent. You know the story by now. The project was for a single player game that was going to be out by the end of last year, but they got so over-funded that they decided to build something more elaborate, and along the way they decided to spin off the multiplayer aspect as a stand-alone, micro-transaction driven title. That has launched, but the game I put my money in for still has not. Last I heard they’re aiming for late summer at the earliest.

See the FTL entry above. I would’ve been much happier if the team had made the game they promised and delivered it when they promised, then used the extra funding for a sequel or something. This was the first time that ‘stretch goals’ meant ‘changing the product into something unrecognizable.’ I was also really turned off by this blog post by Banner Saga team member Alex Thomas. It’s a rebuttal to a another piece that could’ve been written by me. Thomas is doing a real spin-job around this stuff. Anyway I could go on and on about my disappointment over The Banner Saga but at the end of the day I’m just looking at it as $50 lost in a bad investment. Not the end of the world.

Now let’s talk about The Dead Linger. I LOVE these guys. They’re being really transparent in their development. The game hasn’t published but they have given backers access to an alpha build. This is kind of what I’m looking for in a Kickstarter project. I feel like I’m part of the process, or at least I could be. I could play the alpha and give feedback and watch the game come together (and it’s the game they promised in their pitch). I feel 100% positive about my choice to back this team.

Legends of Eisenwald is worth mentioning because they’re very close to release, as far as I can see. They’ve offered backers a beta build and the game looks really good. Excited to see this one launch!

Clang is an unusual project for me because I just backed it as an idea. I doubt I’ll ever play it (don’t want to buy a bunch of hardware just to play one game) but this is a true case of me ‘investing’ in the gaming industry. I want to see them make this game even if I won’t ever play it.

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption I backed because a friend on G+ was talking about it and it was in danger of not making its goal. In some ways these are the most rewarding Kickstarter projects because you feel like you actually made a difference. As this is an adventure game, I probably won’t even play it, but hopefully my friend will, and he’ll have fun, and I’ll feel good about doing my part in helping the game get made.

Also there’s one more project I want to mention: Project Eternity – $3,986K/$1,100K 10/16/2013 This was the first project I backed, then withdrew my pledge from, based in part on my Banner Saga experience (they were throwing stretch goals around like mad) and on the fact that they just felt greedy to me. They were well over their goal and still pushing up-sells really hard (in the form of add-on pledges). They really left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully the game will be worth it.

Whew so that’s a lot of text, but when I look back, if I had opted not to back The Banner Saga I don’t think I’d be nearly as ‘anti-Kickstarter’ as I am. The jury is still out on a lot of games I backed…some of them probably will never make it to fruition. But some of them (like Shadowrun Returns) I’m super-excited about.

It’s also clear I was much too liberal about throwing money at projects last spring… spent far too much money on these projects.

So I think going forward I just need to be more careful and perhaps pledge towards the end of a campaign rather than at the front of it. If a project has made its goal it doesn’t need my cash until it hits retail. That way I won’t get disappointed by stretch goals. It’s always going to be a risk, of course. That’s just the nature of Kickstarter. But when you pick the right projects you can feel really good about them.

(I should note that these aren’t all my Kickstarter projects; just the game ones. I’ve had pretty good luck when it comes to other products on the service.)

3 thoughts on “Kicking around Kickstarter: Is my annoyance justified?

  1. Hey,

    I backed Clang as well, and I’ve been waiting to see how it turns out. I read your blog post today, and I also happened to have also picked up the Razor Hydra controller used for Clang on Woot today.

    It’s selling for $40, half of what it normally sells for on Amazon, so it was worth it for me. Maybe it will help your readers.

  2. I agree with you. You’re kinda “buying” a pig in a poke when you go to Kickstarter. The way I always looked at it wasn’t so much as investment (because it’s not. An investment implies the possibility of a return.) but as a donation. Because of that I’ve had a tendency to avoid some of the bigger ones, and stay in the small-medium offers.

    I’ve still yet to receive anything more than an email, except for one who gave me a downloadable version of the game (it’s a card game.) I’m not one to cut out playing cards from a sheet so I didn’t really use that but the actual game is supposed to ship in the next several weeks.

    Because I approach it as an arms-length, flyer-type donation instead of an investment I never have anything to lose financially. I would still be peeved if I felt like I got “bait and switched” and the thing I though I was funding morphed into something completely different.

    I’m also like you in the respect that if I didn’t nip this in the bud pretty early I’d be freaking broke.

  3. Wow, didn’t know about the Shadowrun game – I loved it on tabletop.

    I haven’t followed kickstarter except for the larger PR announcements (Lord British? Marc Jacobs?) and the fact that there IS PR announcements, and guys who have had their prime in the gaming space using their names to back projects is very hmmmmmm to me.

    I love the idea behind it, and good luck with your ‘investments’. Thanks for sharing.

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